“I had lots of fun”, “it’s a good way of trying new foods with my children” and “it can be hard during the holidays.”
These were just some of the comments from families at a school holiday food club arranged by a partnership of Slough organisations.
The Good Grub Club, an initiative created to combat holiday hunger, supports families by hosting interactive workshops with an emphasis on getting participants to prepare food and cook healthy meals from start to finish.
The Good Grub Club is running officially this summer, after a smaller successful pilot showed there was a need to help some families who struggled financially. Housing Association Radian wanted to expand the club for this summer holidays and the council’s building and maintenance partner Osborne helped source a venue and complimentary food and fun activities for the children. Zest restaurant at Langley College is now the location for families to gather once a week during the school holidays.
While parents go off and learn to cook wholesome and versatile meals under the tutelage of chef lecturer Mark Goldstein and his staff, the children play under the supervision of volunteers. Local organisations and charities provide various activities for free such as sports, drama and virtual reality workshops.
Around eight families are attending the weekly session where they get to share the meal they have cooked, as well as receiving the recipe and ingredients to recreate the meal at home. Families being helped by domestic violence charity Hestia are also attending.
Shabana Farooq, community development officer at Radian, said a small pilot project was set up last summer to help families on low incomes during holiday periods. She said: “For families on a budget, we helped them learn how to make nutritious, simple and quick meals which can be the base of lots of family dinners.
“For some people it is going right back to basics and helping them learn how to go through a recipe from start to finish.
“It is also to combat holiday hunger to support families who are usually entitled to free school meals who can struggle over the six-week holiday. Free school meals support low income families during term time, but there are 170 non-school days a year, causing a lot of financial pressure.
“And most of all we want the children to have fun and then sit down and have a family meal together.”
Claire Giacobbe, Osborne’s community investment manager, said everyone was grateful to all the partners coming together including Slough Business Community Partnership, Radian, Slough Borough Council, Men’s Matters, Slough Outreach and Bidfood Slough, which contributed the fresh ingredients from their suppliers.
She said: “The children have a fun time trying out new activities while their parents cook. They then all share the meal which has been cooked, which is a lovely experience, and hopefully will help the families in the long term.”
Mum Pauline, 43, of Langley, attended the pilot Good Grub Club last year and will be participating in this summer’s sessions.
She said: “We get to cook and try different ingredients and foods that I might not normally buy. When you’re a single mum it’s hard to try and experiment when you don’t know if your child will like it.
“Also, it’s about cooking things you have forgotten about that actually are easy like apple crumble - which I don’t think I’ve had since I lost my mum years ago.”
One 12-year-old boy who attended said he really enjoyed the virtual reality games provided by Immersive Computing Labs.
He said: “I like to try new things out and make new friends. The VR game was great.”
Cllr Mohammed Nazir, cabinet member for housing and community safety, said: “This is a great example of lots of organisations working in partnership for the benefit of Slough residents.
“Not only do children get to experience an activity, their parents get expert advice on how to cook really wholesome and budget friendly meals they can use in their everyday lives.
“Then, what better way to spend a mealtime but together trying new food and talking.”